BAGHDAD — A Shi’ite militia group in Iraq said it was responsible for a deadly attack earlier this week that killed five American troops.
The Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah posted the claim on its website late Thursday. The US military announced the deaths of the five American soldiers Monday, the single largest loss of life for American troops in two years. It said its base was hit by indirect fire, a military term for rockets and mortars.
Kataib Hezbollah is one of three main Shi’ite militias operating in Iraq. All staunchly oppose the US military presence in Iraq and have vowed to oppose any move for US troops to stay past their expected Dec. 31 departure date.
In Washington on Thursday, Leon Panetta, nominated as the next Secretary of Defense, predicted that Iraq will ask the United States to maintain a presence there beyond the end of this year. About 47,000 US troops remain in Iraq, none in a declared combat role. They are slated to leave under an agreement reached in 2008.
Also yesterday, about a thousand protesters returned to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. Many there and in other cities opposed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s decision to not fire anyone in his Cabinet after this week’s expiration of a self-imposed 100-day deadline for reforms. Maliki had promised to purge his government of corruption and dysfunction and provide more electricity and better public services, but the deadline passed earlier this week with little fallout.